Genubai Shelar, 60, has one wish: to find a suitable wife for his 39-year-old son, Sushil. He graduated in agriculture and owns around 30 acres of farmland in the village of Pathardi in Maharashtra. Although the search for a bride began ten years ago, Sushil has yet to find one. As the months progressed into years and then decades, Genubai diluted its definition of a suitable wife – now any girl will do, educated or illiterate and caste is no obstacle. . “I want to see my son married before I die. That’s all I want now, ”said Genubai. Sushil is a farmer.
Kishore Pisa, 30, lives in the village of Januna in Maharashtra and owns 15 acres of irrigated land. He is a business graduate with a graduate degree in marketing. He has been looking for a wife for three years. Although her family has approached around 25 families looking for their daughters in marriage, none of these families want Kishore as a son-in-law. He is a farmer.
The social fabric of Maharashtra is changing. While the sons of farmers find it difficult to get wives, their sisters don’t want farmers as husbands. Girls want city-dweller husbands with a stable income and don’t want to settle for less. This slowly imposed change has now spread and is pulling on the “traditional” family structure in rural Maharashtra. The number of single men has been steadily increasing, many said.
Swati Maldade, 18, the daughter of a farmer who committed suicide, left her village and enrolled in a nursing course in Mumbai. She has a part-time job as a restaurant worker. As her mother and siblings continue to live in the village, Swati is adamant that she will not live her mother’s life. “I saw my mother struggling to run the house even during my father’s lifetime. After her death, she had to pay off her debts. She has no jewelry and lives with three saris. It is only when one is in tatters that she buys another. I try to send him money every month. Do you think I want to marry a farmer after this? Swati asked.
Those like Genubai sought divine intervention to resolve their dilemma. She started fasting on Fridays and worships the goddess Durga, to help Sushil find a wife. Ten years ago, Genubai was convinced that she would find a “fair, slim and family-oriented” daughter for her son. However, the years of struggling to find a wife have chiseled the demands, leaving “any girl will do” in her heart.
Ditto for Kishore. Her family also reduced her marriage aspirations and now settled for “any educated girl will do.”
When Vishwas Kale, a 26-year-old cotton farmer, realized that he might not find a wife if he continued to farm, he had an original idea. Vishwas opened a Kirana store in his village. Once married, he closed the shop and returned to farming. It was two years ago. Since he closed the store, his wife has returned to her parents’ house and refused to come back to him. “If she says to start the store, he has to. Where will he find another girl? said a source linked to Kishore.
The agrarian crisis, the suicides of farmers, the lack of a better standard of living, small farms, the reduction in the profitability of agriculture and the increase in debt have made the search for a wife a priority. difficult task for farmers. “I have two daughters and I will never marry them to a farmer, even if I am a farmer. I raised my daughters in great difficulty and I don’t want them to lead a life of struggle and poverty, ”said Sunil Bembade, a farmer from Ausa in Latur district in central Maharashtra.
Repeated poor harvests, declining groundwater levels, excessive reliance on monsoons and inconsistent government policies spread over decades are the factors contributing to the marginalization of farmers. Many young farmers are migrating to cities and taking jobs in order to find wives, sources said. “Many marriage agencies don’t even list boys’ names if they mention their occupation like farming.
In drought-stricken areas of Maharashtra, weddings have declined by nearly 50%, said the owner of a private venue – in Osmanabad in central Maharashtra – which is rented out for weddings and other functions. Despite the current wedding season, bookings are low, he said. “It’s not because of the Covid. If there are no girls, who will the boys marry?” He said.
According to sources, the main reason farming communities such as Marathas, Patidars, Gujjars and Jats aggressively demand the reservation of government jobs is also to improve their social status. The agricultural crisis has affected not only the economic status of farming communities, but also their social status. “Through government jobs, these farmers want to elevate their status and marry educated girls,” the source said.
Rural Maharashtra has seen a surge in educational institutes that offer professional courses such as beauty, baking, nursing and fashion design, etc. Many girls have started studying English through online courses. The Department of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship set up by the Government of Maharashtra in collaboration with the United Nations has set up the “Skill Sakhi” program focused on the quality mobilization of women in rural areas of the State. Rural women can explore alternative income outside of agriculture. It aims to bridge the gap between women and girls in skills development, job creation and entrepreneurship opportunities. This greatly contributes to the empowerment of women and girls, which makes the task of “finding the bride” more difficult.